Kiowa is a small town in Pittsburg County, Oklahoma, with a population of 731. Located in the southeastern part of the state, the Kiowa Public Works Authority serves about 350 water customers and 294 sewer customers.

The Kiowa Public Works Authority employs one clerk who handles utility billing, manages customer accounts, applies adjustments and deposits, uploads meter readings, and preserves documents for annual audits.

After the previous clerk resigned, Kiowa PWA’s new hire, Breanna Battles, felt overwhelmed due to her lack of experience in utility services. Seeking help, she reached out to Communities Unlimited (CU) and connected with the Environmental Services Team for technical assistance.

Battles collaborated with Julie Hudgins, CU’s Senior Community Environmental Management Specialist, for training. Hudgins specifically taught her how to use Sequoia, the real-time data application software used by Kiowa PWA, leveraging her previous work experience with the tool.

Kiowa Public Works Authority in Oklahoma collaborated with the Environmental Services Team at Communities Unlimited to enhance utility management through targeted training and technical support.

Hudgins conducted multiple training sessions with Battles over Zoom and visited on-site for in-person training. The training covered a range of topics including automatic and manual meter readings, pre-billing reports for unusual readings, utility billing calculations, penalty assessments, cut-off notices, account adjustments, deposits, and customer account maintenance.

Hudgins’ support aimed to help Battles and Kiowa PWA comply with specific policies of the EPA-NPA 1 Drinking Water 22-24 Grant, administered by the United States Department of Agriculture-Rural Development (USDA-RD).

"I don’t know what I would do without Communities Unlimited. They've been a huge help to Kiowa PWA. Julie provided insights that were completely new to us and opened our eyes to things we hadn't even considered."

— Breanna Battles, former Kiowa PWA Clerk

Hudgins developed Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) for Battles to streamline her daily operations. Hudgins noted that Breanna quickly grasped the software, learning not only its general operation but also where to find specific reports, such as those needed for utility billing.

“One specific improvement was in tracking customer deposits, which wasn’t done before,” Hudgins said.
“Now, deposits are recorded in each customer’s account history, allowing us to generate reports for the city council on the number of deposits. Previously, deposits were just taken to the bank without any reporting. This change has made Kiowa PWA’s operations more streamlined and easier to manage.”

Battles agreed with Hudgins, noting that the training made her job significantly smoother. The training facilitated her navigation of the system and enhanced her understanding of the necessary information. She learned how to use the system and handle reports, areas she previously knew little about, including the essential monthly reports.

“Communities Unlimited’s help was worth it,” Battles said. “We are lucky to have them for our needs.”

Hudgins’ work continues with Leea Shows, who was hired recently after Battles transferred to the Kiowa Town Court Clerk position. Shows, who started in February 2024, also does not have a background in utility billing.

The SOPs created by Hudgins have accelerated Shows’ acclimation by providing existing training documents. Kiowa’s small size limits its access to resources, finances, and personnel needed for such training, which was provided at no cost. This technical assistance and training have been crucial for the financial sustainability of Kiowa PWA, Hudgins says.

“Julie has been a huge help,” Shows said. “If I don’t understand something, she explains it in detail. This information is useful for anyone else who might join us later. I started in February, and she walked me through everything, including how to complete the reports properly. We haven’t had any issues or errors come back to us since. We’ve managed to do things right the first time, avoiding any problems. Julie has been incredibly supportive.”